PM celebrates courage, successes of East Indians, ancestors

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. – File photo

THE Prime Minister has saluted the bold and daring risks indentured Indians took, when they fearlessly and courageously made the unknown trip to TT, 179 years ago, on May 30, 1845.

Endorsing the profound statement by the late Dr Eric Williams more than five decades ago that there can be no Mother India, Mother Africa, Mother China, or Mother Syria, but only Mother TT, Dr Rowley said the East Indian community could look back with pride at its achievements.

“The Indian community, as it looks at its achievements today, can point to its ancestors of 1845, and proudly to the successes of their subsequent generations in various fields that encompass the whole range of this country’s achievements,” he said in a message celebrating Indian Arrival Day on May 30.

On examination of the history of those ancestors, he said, one must marvel at the bold, daring risk they undertook – their fearlessness and courage. He encouraged citizens to reflect on the past to chart a future with greater clarity and confidence.

“They were agriculture workers and persons from India’s labouring class, who were enticed to leave their homes, thousands of miles away – most from villages in Utter Pradesh and Bihar in northern India, others from Calcutta and the southern regions.”

Happening in the 19th century, travel at that time meant miles over land, a three-month voyage, crossing the treacherous Indian Ocean, around southern Africa, across the Atlantic and finally landing in an unheard-of island called, “Chinidad,” the home their children and all other citizens now call The Republic of TT, Rowley explained.

“As citizens, we all need to understand the arduous struggles of the forefathers of our land. We all need, as we look forward, to look back, into our nation’s history so that we will approach our collective future with greater clarity and confidence.”

He recalled the period of indentureship for 150,000 Indian immigrants between 1845 to 1917 when they served as replacement after the abolition of African slavery in 1838.

“Today, we must all celebrate the strength displayed by subsequent generations of the Indian community, over the past 179 years.

Fortunately for the indentured, he said, there were no successful attempts by the colonials of systemic “cultural erasure.”

“In this new land, they were allowed to retain their religion and their culture, which gave their community a sense of being.

“Dr Eric Williams, considered as ‘the Father of our Nation’ stated in 1970 that there could be No Mother India, No Mother Africa, No Mother China, or Mother Syria, but only Mother TT.”

He referenced the UN Economic Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in a position paper on multiculturalism, wrote that the “successful management of multiculturalism, and multi-ethnic societies (as ours) requires not only a democratic polity, but the struggle against social inequalities and exclusion.

“We, in TT, can claim proudly that UNESCO was speaking about our history as a nation. As a people we have maintained ‘a democratic polity’ and continue to fight against ‘social inequalities and exclusion’.

“Let us all in this nation salute and celebrate with our brothers and sisters.”